Where do I start ?
“My garden is a mess.” I hear this quite often when I am asked to photograph a garden. “I don’t mind, my garden’s a mess too”, I usually reply, trying to put the gardener at ease. But to be honest, if the gardener is a serious one I find I often really like a mess of plants. I like them personally because I just love plant textures and unexpected combinations. They feel good. The plants are just plain happy. Looking good is an aesthetic that garden publishers often don’t understand. Don’t we all love our happy messes?
I like a mess because, as I start a new book about sustainability, I realize they are quite sustainable. There is a whole lot to be said about sustainability and I hope you will all buy the book (in 2 years), to get at the heart of what makes a sustainable garden; but for today let it be known, my job will be to make pretty pictures out of messy gardens. The Camera Always Lies – right ?
So lets start with my own mess. Look back at that opening wide view. Wonder and guess where a “real” garden photo might be. I have an intention and it will be revealed.
I often find I start with a wide view and “work” the garden looking for the essence. I start with no intention other than looking for beauty. If the garden is ready, and the photographer is open, photos will reveal themselves. After I get the feel of a garden I begin to interpret it and look for the themes that my client has sent me to find. It could be a photo assignment about pathways, grasses, roses, native plants, design, lawn alternatives, drought tolerance, sustainability – all themes that could pertain to this garden, but each idea calls for a different way to look at the garden. I have written here before that the best photos have an intention, they should say something, be “about” something.
And the fun thing for me as I write this, is I know where I am going, I know what the payoff picture is. I know my intention – and am presenting a treasure hunt. OK, we entered this garden room looking away from the rustic pergola that I used in the Find A Photo post. Now that we are looking for a photo, where are we going ? The second picture was easy to find as I work the room; I know this garden well. Now let’s grab a nice photo combination of California native plants:
This was a grab shot really, one I just couldn’t pass up. The Muhlenbergia rigens silhouettes itself nicely because of the dark space behind it. The Clarkia amoena is just beginning to open. I invite those who want to learn a bit about photo composition to see how this photo evolved from the one just before. The lower right quadrant of my second photo becomes this tighter one.
Before going on to the photo that was waiting for me when I grabbed my camera this morning, look back at the first photo again, the wide messy one. Where I am going? Note the dab of yellow, left center? See the climbing roses ? I am going to walk down the path, just past the yellow Achillea ‘Moonshine’ and photograph the roses.
I have been planning this photo for 7 years when I planted 5 rambling rose to grow up into and enliven the Eucalyptus trees that separate me from my neighbor. It pleases me well this day when Rosa ‘Apple Blossom’ has peaked. Also we see a bit of the white rambler ‘Bobbie James’ but ‘Apple Blossom’ steals the show.
The great joy of planning a garden is giving it all the care you can, letting it go, and seeing what happens. This scene will never look like this again, and maybe next year I will share some new look. The persimmon tree will give more bright green to the upper left and the Cornus ‘Elegantissima’ will provide more silver foliage right there in the dead center. Maybe. Hard to grow a photo composition to order, one must let the garden decide. Today let’s enjoy the ‘Apple Blossom’ cascading down through the gray Eucalyptus leaves:
In my last post about Capturing Spring I said I spent 30 minutes finding one particular photo. This time I spent 30 minutes getting them all. Or maybe it took 30 minutes to find the one final tapestry.